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Film review: Straight-Jacket

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2005 1:56 p.m. MST

"Straight-Jacket" is at its best when it's sending up '50s-era Hollywood and it's at its worst when trying to make a serious point.

You can see what filmmaker Richard Day is trying to get at — an attempt to equate the "Red Scare" of the 1950s with the perceived homophobia of past and present Hollywood. But it's done clumsily, with a very heavy hand, and that material begins to overwhelm and weigh down the more light-hearted content. In fact, things get so serious near the end that they start challenging the notion that this cheeky period piece is actually a comedy.

Then there's the thinly disguised insinuations about the late Rock Hudson. The movie's main character (played by sitcom actor Matt Letscher) is even named Guy Stone!

Guy is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but he's got a secret: He's gay. Now it seems that his off-screen "adventures" may cost him his dream job, starring as the main character in "Ben-Hur."

So his crafty agent (Veronica Cartwright) strong-arms him into marrying Sally (Carrie Preston), the naive studio secretary with a not-so-secret crush on him. As fate would have it, the scheme works and suddenly Guy is back on top of the world.

However, temptation comes calling in the form of Rick Foster (Adam Greer), the idealistic screenwriter of Guy's new movie project. The closeted film star begins having late-night "script meetings" with Rick, leaving Sally to wonder why her new husband is spending so much time away from home.

There's little chemistry between Letscher (who looks eerily like a dark-haired Eric Stoltz) and Greer. In fact, their relationship seems more of a sham than Guy's marriage.

Still, there are some early laughs, and a couple of scene-stealing supporting performances by Cartwright and Michael Emerson, who plays Guy's wisecracking butler (essentially the "Tony Randall role"). Both deserve more screen time than they get.

"Straight-Jacket" is not rated but would probably receive an R for sexual innuendo, drug content (references, as well as some pot smoking), brief sexual contact (gay and straight, done for laughs), violence (some slapstick, as well as an off-screen gay-bashing incident), and scattered use of strong profanity. Running time: 96 minutes.


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